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Kushmans' Fontana Update



Their update arrived earlier than I had expected.... I haven't yet seen 
the message I posted to the list about an hour ago in which I said this 
update should be appearing tomorrow morning...

--Kathy

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Richard Kushman <70304.1011@compuserve.com>
Date: 29 Mar 96 23:31:10 EST
To: Kathy Bilton <kathy@fred.net>
Subject: Fontana Update 

Day 22 3/23/96  8.2 miles Finally back on the trail. We were shuttled
to Winding Stair Gap and began our first snow hike. Most of the
Franklin group had to return to Wallace Gap but Thunder and Lightning
had also slack packed Wallace to Winding Stair and we started together.
Our goal today was Wine Spring campsites.

Thank God a few strong hikers had blazed the trail leaving their
footsteps and walking stick tracks for us to follow. We experienced
everything from ankle deep slush to two or three foot drifts. Slow and
very unfriendly would certainly describe the conditions. The profile
from here to Fontana Dam looks hard enough, the snow just adds another
demanding AT experience.  We reached Wine Spring and set up camp on the
only piece of bare ground available. Someone had clearly suffered the
storm at Wine Spring. Thunder and Lightning soon arrived and we all
stomped down the snow forming a new tent sight, ate dinner, and called
it a day..

Day 23 3/24/96  7.6 miles Another day of mostly snow hiking but some
improvement. Mud is the replacement in many sections but just as
slippery. Early in the day with the trail still frozen the footing is
somewhat better but wet and slick soon follow the afternoon thaw.  We
met Mike "Sasquatch" today as he was trying to catch his friends.
Sasquatch's knee was slowing him down possibly meaning some time off at
Wesser.  We found a semi clear tent sight on the ridge above the Cold
Spring Shelter and settled in. Thunder and Lightning arrived later and
along with Sasquatch stayed in the shelter.

Day 24 3/25/96 11.5 miles Rain started about 7:30 a.m. and continued
until noon. Slogging along the muddy trails was very tedious but at
least the snow was being washed away. Waiting for us at Wesser was the
Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and a motel room (our natural habitat).
This along with a 4.5 mile down hill section to end the day  pushed us
along.  Hiker panic - no hot water - the gas heater had failed. We
called for help, went to dinner with Thunder and Lightning, and by the
time we returned all was well. A good meal, a hot shower, and time to
dry out, these simple pleasures would almost make the next day
palatable.

****** NOTHING IS WATERPROOF ******** I did my own informal survey
regarding boots and their ability to keep one's feet dry. Given the
conditions that we experienced on the AT-Trail during this period and
the fact that our feet were quite wet and every hiker we met had wet
feet, regardless of brand of boot, regardless of leather or Gortex or
Shmortex, I will quote Lightning - " NO HIKING BOOTS ARE WATERPROOF
UNLESS MADE OF STAINLESS STEEL" - period.
*****************************************

 Day 25  3/26/96  6.9  miles The outfitting store at NOC is quite nice.
Geared mostly for Kayaking, the facility and the river training course
are quite impressive.  Artemis was checking into the bunk room as we
were leaving. She needed to recover from the flu and jumped ahead of
Stomper, this would give her some much needed rest. She reported the
Cheese Girls and Honeymooners about a day behind.  With some food items
replenished we headed out for a day of pain. Sassafras Gap Shelter was
6.9 miles ahead and 99%  uphill, however, most of the snow was gone and
the trail improving.  
The shelter was down in a hollow and fully populated with five college 
boys, two from our home state, Connecticut. We stayed on the ridge above 
the shelter near the trail, Thunder and Lightning joined us and we all 
had a calm night.

Day 26  3/27/96  9.1  miles This was a day of on and off sprinkles and
thick fog. Brown Fork Gap Shelter was the target and as it turned out
all we could handle. Entries in the trail register properly mirrored
our opinion of the climb out of Sweetwater Gap.  Obviously this must be
an old section of trail put in before switch backs were invented - pure
hell.  We arrived at the shelter by 3:00 p.m. and by 4:30 p.m. began to
wonder about Thunder and Lightning. Where were they? Another "Man at
the wheel" story explains it all. Riley (Lightning), was driving and
found some orange tape on several trees one of them marked - AT
Relocation - he took that route thinking a problem existed along the
white blazed trail. After stumbling, falling and pushing through
unblazed forest they finally arrived back on the proper trail. Kate
(Thunder) exhibited saintly understanding and control regarding this
little detour.  This shelter was clean and comfortable and the four of
us slept well during a night of continuous rain.

Day 27  3/28/96  13.4   miles Longest day so far. Fontana Dam seemed
like a milestone. Next would be the Smokies, but first a little R&R at
the Fontana Inn.  Rain continued most of the day with heavy fog draped
over all the vistas. We just continued slogging through the mud up and
down, up and down. We stopped for lunch near a road at Yellow Creek Gap
and a produce truck pulled over for a brief stop. Lightning quickly
shmoosed two pints of fresh strawberries and two tomatoes from the
generous driver. Fresh fruit fuel for the final leg - Trail Magic.
Both T&L and us had stray dogs follow us for two miles to RT28. They
were looking for food and attention and following hikers for both.
What a great sight when we rounded a corner and there was Fontana Lake,
our goal was reachable.  Anxious fear left my mouth dry, my feet were
screaming and daylight was waning  as I picked up the receiver on the
pay phone behind the Fontana Dam Visitor Center - YES ! - there was a
dial tone. The Fontana Inn sent a shuttle and Thunder, Lightning,
Download and Nexmo were all saved.

Day 28  3/29/96  no miles Mail drop day. We got four boxes and
envelopes. How can we possibly carry all this.  Turtle's Mom, Susan,
sent us some chocolate covered cherries. We will carry those deep
inside.  We also received surprise packages from Rande and Bill and
Nexmo's fellow teachers, making our resupply quite simple.  Tomorrow
the Smokies. We plan on going straight through in five or six days.
Next report from Hot Springs, NC in about nine days.

***** THANK YOU - THANK YOU ******* Many thanks to everyone expressing
their good wishes and interest in our little adventure. If you have
sent e-mail and we haven't replied personally, lack of time is the only
reason.  ***************************************

"Download" & "Nexmo" AT - 1996 GA to ME